Well it’s a long time coming, but a lot happened at 4S..so I can be excused from my lateness in posting about that and also (in the following message) SLSA.

As AstroDime is currently working on Scientific American/La America CientĂ­fica, I was out scoping for some ideas and conversation on both ideas. What follows is not a summation of the whole conference of 4S (Society for Social Studies of Science), but my biased account. 4S took place in Washington DC from October 28-30, 2009 in Crystal City Virginia (a few trainstops from D.C.
-sam smiley

Train in D.C. to 4s

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I was lucky enough to spend a night with my friends Alberto Roblest and Christine Macdonald. Alberto is a video/media artist and Christine is a writer. In the evening I went to the reception for 4S. The first evening reception at 4S was a huge event, but I met up with some folks from RPI for a great ethiopian dinner.
This first section is devoted to the development of the Latin American STS track at the 4S conference.

Thurs morning, I decided to focus my energies on the Latin American/post-colonial track organized in part by Rick Duque. The session was called Environment, Technology and Society Interactions in Latin America. I greatly enjoyed a session presented by Erick Castellanos of Ramapo Unversity called “The Mexican and Transnational Lives of Corn: Technological, Political, Edible Object” (Co-written by Sara Bergstresser?). Part of the focus of the presentation was on the overproduction of corn in the U.S. for corn syrup and ethanol. He talked about corn genetics and the social issues between the US and Mexico, and public protests against bio-engineered corn in Mexico.

Another interesting talk was by a science writer from Brazil on P-MAPA, a drug which boosts the immune system and is helpful in the treatment of AIDS and also to deter various cancer cells and tumors. The talk was called “Across Borders: the Discovery and Development of the compound P-MAPA in Brazil”, and I THINK the presenter was Carlos Henrique Fioravanti. He talked about the history of the development of the drug, and how it hasn’t been mainstreamed in its use in the US despite its effectiveness and low cost. A link to P-MAPA is at http://www.farmabrasilis.org.br/todos_conteudos_interna.php?idioma=eng&id=198

The next session I went to was called Technology, Biology, and Medicine in Latin America. This was really interesting. Sandra Patricia Gonzales-Santos presented a talk (and later in the conference joined me for my presentation, much to my delight). Her talk was called “Negotiating Authority in the Mexican Assisted Human Reproduction Scenario” and it was a really interesting cultural studies analysis of the representation of assisted reproduction in Mexico. She did an in-depth study of mass media in mexico, both headlines, bylines, and images/represtnation. She also did an analysis on the vocabularies used to describe this.

One interesting comment by a group presenting on cloning in Argentina and Brazil (Juan Mariano Fressoli and Hernan Eduardo Thomas) talked the “social construction of the periphery” in Latin American STS. That was very intriguing food for thought.

Finally, following the Latin American STS thread, the last panel on this topic I went to was Theories and Methods in Latin American STS. Again, my coverage of this will be by no means comprehesive, these are what interested me.

Ivan de Costa Marques’s talk was “A Latin American Food for the Children Program and Limits of Relativism”. He described this food product which is sold as a food supplement in Brazil called “multimistura” and how it is being discredited as “scientific” as nutrition by scientists, but is still embraced by a lot of people. It was developed by Clara Brandao. A web site in English describing it is http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=1233613

Rodrigo Ribiero gave his talk “The Sociology of Scientific Knowledge in High School”. I thought this was really amazing. He is fortunate enough to be able to introduce 2 different schools, one public, and one private to STS, and is doing a followup study (I think he quoted Sara Delamont’s work from the education side). He talked about the issues and problems (the idea of science delivering certainty in an uncertain world being challenged, relations with science teachers in the high school) but since sociology is required in Brazilian high schools, the 2nd year followup for these high schools is STS. I think (and i will note this later) that the STS split from the K-12 setting, as an academic discipline only is problematic, and this talk really was interesting as a bridge between the worlds of K-12 education and higher ed (a split that is by no means confined to STS). He also shared a detailed syllabus/Unit which I thought was very generous.

this ends my report (albeit) incomplete on the Latin American STS track at 4S. However, I do want to add an important note (which also connects to the last paragraph I wrote). There is an uneasy relationship of STS to K-12 education. I believe this is in part because of the enormous gulf (at least in the United States) between higher ed and K-12. As an example: when I was first applying for teaching jobs in higher ed, I was told NOT to put any teaching experience I would have had with K-12, because it would not help my chances of getting a job, and might hurt it. A colleague of mine, who had taught high school media and was applying for a new media position at a university was told the same thing.
I can certainly understand that there are differences in pedagogy between k-12 and higher ed. However, I think that it is important to note that some people trained in STS have in fact gone on to work, either in a research capacity or teaching capacity in the K-12 area. (Since I work at Lesley University, I know a few of them). At the Friday evening Presidential Plenary Discussion (Trends and Futures of STS), Sheila Jasanoff was asked about involvement of STS with K-12 settings. In her reply she talked about participant observation or doing ethnographys in schools, thus describing the K-12 setting as a research site only. I disagree with this..I think there are a number ways STS graduates and scholars could be involved in introducing critical thinking about science in the K-12 setting. How about STS in high schools, like in Robert Ribiero’s talk? Also..what is STS’s relationship to STEM (an integrated program called Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics currently part of a K-12 dialogue)?? where does it fit in? Does STS relate to that at all? How about K-12 teachers as researchers rather than objects of study? I think STS can fit into the K-12 area, there does not have to be an artificial separation. As the audience member asked about STS in the K-12 setting, there was spontaneous applause in the crowd. And that in and of itself was interesting.

-my two or more cents (sam smiley)